Effective treatment must involve both behavioral/psychological and physical approaches to managing pains. Improvement is a step-by-step process, with periods of relapses and flare-ups, which require the patient being active in their own care. The course of treatment can be slow and take time with a large focus on being able to manage one’s pain over time.
There is no cure and the patient must understand how they can reduce the pains, manage problems, and use pain management ideas, which includes regular exercise (however, strength training may only worsen Fibromyalgia). Important treatment concerns include:
- A major focus in improving the quality of sleep (Stage 4 sleep), by many methods including learning relaxation techniques.
- The use of anti-depressant medications can be useful in improving sleep patterns (they improve REM/Dream sleep), reduces pain, along with reducing one’s perception of pain. Sleep medications may actually make things worse since they interfere with REM sleep patterns.
- Exercise, stretching, biofeedback, physical therapy, Myofascial trigger point soft-tissue self-care techniques, and rest help. Pilates (pih-LAH-teez) exercises are excellent for the syndrome.
- Not all physical therapy is helpful. You need a therapist who knows Manual (hands-on) techniques rather than just a focus on exercise/strengthening techniques.
- Education about one’s condition/problem is vital to management.
- Learning to pace one’s self, and one’s activities, is vital. Fibromyalgia is more prominent in high-achieving and perfectionistic people who continue to push themselves and feel that their identity is based on doing and being in control.
- Behavioral/psychological therapy is helpful in learning active self-care techniques, exploring problems, and in changing responses.
- Setting a timer to go off every 20 minutes helps one to remember to stop what is being done, to take time to stretch, and to have frequent breaks.
- Pain can lead to inactivity, deconditioning, sleep problems, and increased pains. Further, inactivity also can cause more pain and makes the pain worse. Walking daily is critical to having less pain.
- Caffeine, alcohol, drugs, and overuse of pain medications, can increase pains because of the stimulant, vascular-constrictive, and central nervous system (CNS) depressant effects of pain medications or alcohol.
- Myofascial soft-tissue techniques, trigger point techniques & stretching are essential to managing pains and improving one’s functioning.
Fibromyalgia does not have to leave you as disabled–unless you want to find support for being and staying disabled. However, if you work on it there will be positive changes and things you can reverse so you can live as normal of a life as possible. One has to remain active. Start slowly. Though you may not want to do anything, it is important to slowly develop an activity routine if you are to effectively manage the Fibromyalgia symptoms!
It is critical not to do too much. Work schedules may have to be adjusted in order to keep the severity of symptoms under control. This can be difficult because supervisors do not understand this condition or that it is a real medical problem. However, Fibromyalgia is a REAL and serious disorder that requires awareness of multiple pain management techniques and approaches for this chronic condition.
Symptoms are signs and warnings to tell us that something is out of balance in our lives. They are there to slow us up, to make us pay attention to issues we deny and avoid, and they force us to start to deal with other issues in our lives we have avoided facing. If one only focuses on the pain symptoms and finding the cure, the underlying psychological/personality style issues will be missed causing only more pain and suffering and a lack of any resolution of the pain problems. The problem is that we live in a society that values hard work, pulling oneself up by the bootstraps, along with sucking it in and pushing harder. This condition requires a different approach.
Activity is important, but it is important that one pace themselves and not overdo activities on the days when feeling better. This only insures a major setback and increase in pain the next few days.
Cure vs. Management of Fibromyalgia
Most patients naturally want to have their former lives back without any further pain and suffering. The problem is that the search for the cure leads only to dead ends and false hoping. The magic in pain treatment is not a pill, but learning to manage it over time.
Pain Management means that one has to learn active techniques to daily manage one’s pain. Once pain problems enter one’s life, everything has changed requiring a new way of adapting and thinking. Acceptance of the condition is critical; not to become a passive victim, but to focus on what needs to be done now to manage this condition so that one can remain functional even with limitations and continuing pain problems.
Remember that the most important thing to know in pain management techniques is that management is the magic word. Chronic pains are managed rather than cured! This requires knowledge and the development of self-care skills.
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